Get read for Mike Foltynewicz trade rumors — the Atlanta Braves announced after last night’s game that their righthanded starting pitcher would be designated for assignment. Foltynewicz gave up 6 runs (including three home runs) in 3.1 IP against the Tampa Bay Rays yesterday.
The move is a surprise, as Atlanta is a contender and Folty is — or was — in their rotation, but manager Brian Snitker said after that game that Foltynewicz’s “stuff hasn’t been there,” and when you are a “stuff” guy, the leash gets real short when the stuff disappears. And the numbers reflect the stuff isn’t there right now — despite averaging 95.5 mph on his fastball and 85.8 mph on his slider in his career, last night his average fastball was 90.5 and his average slider 79.6.
Foltynewicz in 2018 was an All Star who finished 8th in the Cy Young balloting while posting a 2.85 ERA in 31 starts, and fans of 29 teams are no doubt clamoring for their club to take a flyer on the 28 year old former first round pick. He had a down 2019 season, however, posting a 4.54 ERA and 4.97 FIP in 21 starts and getting demoted to AAA mid-season, and the Braves, who have reportedly been concerned about his stuff going back to spring training, have seen enough to move on.
I suspect someone will trade for Foltynewicz, who is under contract for $6.43 million this year, and has one year of arbitration eligibility left before hitting the free agent market in 2021. Depth is even more critical in 2020 than normal, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the possibility a team will find itself needing multiple reinforcements if their players get infected, and the expanded playoffs mean more teams with playoff aspirations who are more motivated to look at short-term improvements from outside the organization. With the expanded rosters for another three and a half weeks, teams also potentially have the luxury of using the 30th or 28th spot on him and seeing if they can get him straightened out.
I suspect the Rangers will at least look at Foltynewicz, but I’m not sure how much interest they are going to have, even with Corey Kluber going down. Kolby Allard is filling in for Kluber for the time being, although the team can skip that spot in the rotation if they choose for a couple of weeks, and Joe Palumbo is also waiting in the wings. There’s also a number of multi-inning relievers available, should Texas decide to go with a bullpen start for the fifth starter spot. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Rangers claimed or traded something negligible for Foltynewicz, but I’m not sure they would view him as the best use of a 40 man roster spot, or a 30 man roster spot, right now, given his struggles.
Two of the Rangers’ rivals for playoff spots come to mind as potential landing spots for Foltynewicz due to significant depth issues with their pitching staffs, and in particular, their rotations. The Houston Astros lost Justin Verlander, likely for the season, which is a big blow to their club, especially given how their rotation stacks up behind Verlander and Zack Greinke. The Astros currently have Lance McCullers, Jr. — coming off Tommy John surgery — Josh James, and Framber Valdez in the rotation with Greinke. Jose Urquidy is on the COVID-19 list, and rotation depth guys Brad Peacock and Austin Pruitt are both injured, with Pruitt having been shut down from throwing with an elbow problem.
The Astros are also dealing with depth issues in the bullpen — Dusty Baker said after last night’s game that relievers Chris Devenski and Ryan Pressly are also dealing with elbow problems that has them potentially unavailable. The Astros have eight rookies in the bullpen already, with limited viable internal reinforcements available. Foltynewicz, who was originally a first round pick of the Astros in 2010, and who was dealt to Atlanta in 2014 in the Evan Gattis trade, could be an option for them.
The other team who is aiming to get into the expanded playoff field but is in need of pitching help is the Boston Red Sox. The BoSox, of course, dealt David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Mookie Betts trade, and are without Eduardo Rodriguez, who has been diagnosed with a heart issue stemming from a COVID-19 infection. Boston’s rotation woes are such that Martin Perez — yes, that Martin Perez — was the team’s #2 starter to begin the season, with Nathan Eovaldi having gotten the Opening Day start. Ryan Weber started Sunday for the Red Sox, and Josh Osich started a bullpen game for the team yesterday. Their scheduled starter today is someone named Matt Hall, a 27 year old lefty who they acquired from Detroit in January.